Happy Tracks in the Snow

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How much do you tell your kids? September 24, 2007

Filed under: Barefoot Books - titles,parenting articles,the kids — paulabrown @ 9:25 pm

So we went to the Bath Festival of Children’s Literature at the weekend, mostly to see some Barefoot Books authors in action – Clare Beaton’s illustration all in fabrics (which you got to try), renditions of the catchy new Port Side Pirates and One City, Two Brothers, the tale about Jerusalem.

One storyteller started with the opening gambit ‘what stories do you tell your children and what should you not tell them’ and invited us to think about what you withhold and why. I have long believed that children can cope with more than we imagine but only if given to them in the right way. Research shows that images from TV are absorbed by the frontal lobes of the brain and the brain doesn’t have time to vet or screen them. Images from storytelling can be ignored by children if they can’t deal with them.

The fact that the storyteller then went on to tell a graphic and gruesome tale about a child-eating teacher illustrates when you should curb your tendencies to tell more disturbing stories but it did make me think about how we explain death, birth, divorce, work and poverty to name a few…

As Gabe is coming up to 5 he is starting to ask a few questions about these things. Explaining why we both work part time to be with them was tricky and I heard him telling a friend the other day that his parents don’t earn much and are poor! It didn’t really bother me and better than saying we’re rich I suppose! Anyway, how much do you tell your children about those tricky topics? Do you come at it straight, no sugar coating (as many people I know do) or does the stork bring babies and are dead bunnies really ‘sleeping’?


Singing in the rain – the tale of a very soggy Street Party!

Filed under: Bristol news,parenting articles,Paula recommends,the kids — paulabrown @ 9:17 pm

So the sun shone all week and has done since but the afternoon of the street party was a wet one. But more bonding was done under the slightly leaking canvas of our gazebo than would have happened dotted about the street at tables in the sun!

People brought pictures of one of the first airplanes every manufactured in Britain (about 2 miles away at Filton where British Aerospace are based) taking a little trip using the now Bristol Rovers ground (about 50m from our street) as a runway. There were pictures of street parties for the Jubilee and Di’s wedding, some hot dog consumption and a lot of banter. Nige (DH) had made the kids a go cart out of old bike bits and they loved not having cars on the street and whizzing down with too many of them bundled in!

Check out Streets Alive website if you fancy having one yourself (they are Bristol based and apparently we are the street party capital of Europe with one small area having over 25 in the summer!). I highly recommend it and it was the easiest and cheapest party to organise as we kept it dead simple! Photos to follow!


Children’s Music – a review September 21, 2007

Filed under: Barefoot Books - titles,parenting articles — paulabrown @ 9:30 pm

My son has just started school and, having tendencies towards the the slightly neurotic, perfectionist alpha-mum type, at the back of my mind I’m thinking ‘what don’t they cover at school that I need to do at home?’. Apart from letting the boys run like dogs, it seems to be music. Apparently there’s not a lot of room for music in the curriculum which seems a darn shame. So I started to dig out my children’s music.

Now let me explain, I’m no chintzy nursery rhyme freak, I am talking decent children’s music. The Wiggles may have stolen the limelight but if you look hard enough there’s some brilliant independent music around.

Now I’m really no musician (despite my grandmother being a well-known organist for Welsh Male Voice choirs) but I could wax lyrical about this. An educational musician – Phil Davis – I know and author of the ‘Beat It’ series talks about beat competency (the ability to keep a rhythm, learned from hearing music with a strong beat and singing themselves) is one of the strongest indicators of future academic performance. I’m not educator so I couldn’t comment but since music and maths are so closely linked, I’m hedging my bets and playing Drum and Base really loud before school… No seriously but let me walk you through my kid’s music collection:

  • Tatty Bumpkin– OK so I’m bound to say this as it’s the class I teach but really, lots of songs related to animals in different tempos, some drumming tracks to march/ play instruments along to, songs for jumping, relaxing, doing yoga to, snuggling with your mummy and all so adult-proof you could hear them several hundred times or more and still be as happy as a clam!
  • Johnny Cash’s Children’s album – apparently very good…
  • Charlie and Lola’s Favourite and Best Music Record
  • Barefoot Books with music CDs – many of the books come with music CDs so you can hum along to Animal Boogie (down in the jungle, come if you dare, what can you see shaking here and there…). Magic Train Ride – folksy number, Port Side Pirates sea shanty, Farmyard Jamboree Chilean folk song…
  • Putumayo Kid’s Range – world music around themes especially for kids – World Playground, Animal Playground, Asian Dreamland, Caribbean Playground etc tc
  • Look around for independent artists – I found a great American one called James K with a great song about the seasons called ‘The Sun Comes up’, we also have a local musician with a CD called Music Fun with Play It
  • Jack Johnson wrote the music for Curious George – the movie, it’s amazing, absolutely gorgeous for adults as well as kids
  • ‘No’ by They Might Be Giants – these guys do kids concerts – at first they were put off by the fact that the preschoolers wandered about picking fluff off the floor during the performances! Quite American in feel but hilarious and ‘Where do they make balloons’ is a favourite… along with ‘Don’t Cross the Road in the Middle of the Street’
  • School Building by Lympsham Preschool Fundraising team – a CD a friend produced to raise money for a school bulding for their preschool. Donated by artists around the world, it’s great and available on Amazon…
  • Don’t forget you can (legally of course) download tracks from ITunes and the like for all your favourite films like Mary Poppins, The Wizard of Oz etc
  • Singalong Songs with Names – bizarre CD my step-mother-in-law bought in a shopping mall stand which has famous nursery rhymes sung with your child’s name littered throughout!
  • Hello Children Everywhere – cracking tripe (on second thoughts, make that ‘triple’) album with lots of old classics like The Runaway Train, Grandpa We Love You etc
  • Music to Watch Girls By – not technically for children but which child doesn’t enjoy ‘Magic Moments’ or ‘Fly Me To the Moon’??

Please let me know which kid’s CDs you like!



Filed under: Barefoot Books - titles,parenting articles,the kids — paulabrown @ 8:54 pm

So I’ve been and got myself in the paper (secretly I think I’m a bit addicted to local low celebrity status now!). I did an International Peace Day Tatty Bumpkin session (and celebration of the new title One City, Two Brothers) in Bristol Central Library, not the best session ever as the children were young and prone to picking fluff off the floor but hey, I got my 15 minutes of fame and of course highlighted the ever-present need for peace…

Had a small tiff with DH today, realised it was International Peace Day and that I was a bit of a hypocrite for promoting it then having said tiff, felt guilty, got over it, now slurping wine with DH and pretending I know how Friday nights really feel to most of the population (self-employed work-from-home mothers have little idea other than cake stall day at school = Friday).

Incidentally school going really really well for DS#1 who has just started Reception and said dreamily on second day ‘I love school Mummy’. I love school too (until all that bosom growing started) so can’t blame him, wouldn’t mind being there myself some days.


Today was the day! September 12, 2007

Filed under: parenting articles,the kids — paulabrown @ 9:24 pm

So picture me, nights of sleep deprivation from my terrible cough (which my friend said might be TB as there’s ‘a lot of it about’!), a lovely spot, period pains, a husband with an extracted wisdom tooth and a tummy bug, two children who can’t be in the same room without bashing each other over the head, so desperate are they to get on with school and playgroup neither of which had started for them, constant whining and moaning, tiredness-induced collisions and falls, a car leaking oil, several major appliances, including the heating and (god forbid!) the washing machine looking like they were packing up! It culminated in me sobbing when told, at the central library, that I’d wracked up fine of £7 for some books I’d never managed to return due to all the above! The librarian was so upset even though I said it wasn’t the fine as such that was upsetting!

Suffice it to say it’s not been a good couple of weeks since the end of the holidays and the start of the supposed term but today, finally, they accepted my boy into school to start his academic career or whatever he is meant to be doing. To say I’m looking forward to his being stimulated and then return to me, eager to see each other after a short break, is an understatement! I did come home with a tear in my eye for my lost ‘baby’ but my friend kindly reminded me about afternoons, mornings, weekends, holidays and of course Inset days and in fact I would still be seeing quite a lot of him!

The playground was a bit scary, I still don’t know how many of his clothes are meant to have school emblems on or how many little drinks he’s meant to have so, knowing me I’ll overdose on them all and he’ll have emblems on half a dozen miniature bottles of drink!


Thinking outside the box (or If it’s broke, fix it) September 7, 2007

Filed under: parenting articles — paulabrown @ 7:39 pm

So as anyone who’s ever tried my banana lasagne will know, I like to think outside the proverbial box. This has come in very handy whilst being a parent as there are often a lot of tricky problems to be solved. The first occasion I had to use the ‘if-its-broke-fix-it approach’ was when my 4-month-old took to wailing and flailing at around 4pm, an awfully long time before DH was due to come home. I finally worked out that a short walk at that time worked a treat and the problem was solved. It took a while for me to try something else rather than ploughing on with the same relentless approach – I guess I’m saying don’t just accept the status quo even when it hurts, there may be an alternative.

Since then I’ve found a million ways of making my life as a parent easier: a childcare swap with a friend saving money and getting the (second!) best childcare my sons could have, my partner and I working flexibly and part-time so we’re around the kids (along with a range of cost-cutting and income-boosting methods of surviving on this scarily low wage), blogging for sanity, cooking meals for a bunch of friends and having it reciprocated, going swimming with friends and us taking it in turns to actually swim, lots of camping holidays with friends which were actually quite relaxing and fun, working at home doing something I love and getting free books in the process, going out for pudding with hubbie when too poor to eat a whole meal out, training to teach kid’s yoga adventure sessions so I can work less for the same money I was on and be with my kids more, running all sorts of events for kids, organising a street party to get to know our neighbours better, starting a Woodcraft Folk group so my city-dwelling children could experience something of nature and the outdoors etc etc.

I do have to admit that some of my creative ideas have met with some logistical problems – Rent-A-Grannie hasn’t quite worked out – I was going to start an agency for lonesome grandparents whose kids decided not to have kids or to do it in Australia. They would be paired up with families like ours whose parents were not nearby / still with us and they could do all the grandparenty kind of stuff. There were a few child protection issues I haven’t yet smoothed out but the idea was sound (and born of my idea while walking on sunny Sundays pre-boys of an agency that you could hire children and dogs from, relieving fraught parents and giving pre-child or childless couples a fun Sunday!).

Likewise my agencies coupling up two part-time mums with similar skills so you could present your CVs for full-time jobs as a job share has yet to come of anything or my idea to make renewable energy from making children run in a huge ‘soft play’ wheel much akin to a hamster wheel. I am going to take out a patent on my bar flyesque toy wall (wall covered in velcro, toys all have a bit of velcro on, at night instead of piecing everything together back in little boxes, simply through the toys at the wall, the kid’ll help you for sure).

My latest idea, born of my concern for the mental health of many mothers – a website called ‘Panic Button’ would be for a group of mums who vowed to rescue any mums who were ‘drowning not waving’ (see my post on this famous poem). The idea is that if you couldn’t cope or felt blue, you would press your ‘panic button’ on the website and other mums would inundate you with sympathy, emails, chocolate, food, babysitting etc until you were feeling better. So the motto is, if it’s broke, do whatever it takes to fix it…


How to save money as a parent September 6, 2007

Filed under: General,parenting articles,Uncategorized — paulabrown @ 9:09 pm


This was in response to some great tips from Little Mummy‘s post about making one income work for a family:
– charity shop charity shop charity shop – posh ones are best but can sometimes be pricey – my kids say ‘can we have a toy today mummy? From the charity shop?’ bless their little hearts!

– use the sale rule – never buy anything in the sale you wouldn’t pay full price for, it means you don’t really want / need it

– good hearty food doesn’t need to be expensive, jacket spuds cheaper and better than oven chips etc etc

– swap with equally broke friends – babysitting, book swaps, meal swaps (can feel like night out if a friend cooks for you), clothes swaps

– there are millions of websites about free days out in your area and ALWAYS take lunch, s nax and drinks with you, you’ll spend a fortune otherwise

-camping can be one of the cheapest and most fun family holidays or if you like festivals, offer to do some kid’s entertainment in exchange for tickets

– buy ‘Self Reliance, A Recipe for the New Milennium’ if you’re really serious about practical and also crazy ways of saving money, growing food, joining wholefood co-ops, buying in bulk, swapping, making, reusing etc